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A ZEN DESCRIPTION OF GOD

 
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23 January 2014 15:49
 

A ZEN DESCRIPTION OF GOD

“Ever since antiquity, with excellence beyond measure, the saints and sages have experienced this Great Cause alone, as if planting great potential and capacity.  By the power of their vows of compassion, they have brought forth direct indications of the One Thing that is most profound and most recondite, the common essence of all the myriad forms of being.

“Without setting up stages, they abruptly transcend to realize this essence alone.  Since before the time when nothing existed, this essence has been ever still and unmoved, determining the basis of all conscious beings.  It permeates all times and is beyond all thought.  It is beyond holy and ordinary and transcends all knowledge and views.  It has never fluctuated or wavered:  it is there, pure and naked and full of life.  All beings, both animate and inanimate, have it complete within them.”

(quoted from the book - ‘ZEN LETTERS - Teachings of Yuanwu’ - translated by J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary)

 
 
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23 January 2014 16:06
 
unsmoked - 23 January 2014 02:49 PM

A ZEN DESCRIPTION OF GOD

“Ever since antiquity, with excellence beyond measure, the saints and sages have experienced this Great Cause alone, as if planting great potential and capacity.  By the power of their vows of compassion, they have brought forth direct indications of the One Thing that is most profound and most recondite, the common essence of all the myriad forms of being.

“Without setting up stages, they abruptly transcend to realize this essence alone.  Since before the time when nothing existed, this essence has been ever still and unmoved, determining the basis of all conscious beings.  It permeates all times and is beyond all thought.  It is beyond holy and ordinary and transcends all knowledge and views.  It has never fluctuated or wavered:  it is there, pure and naked and full of life.  All beings, both animate and inanimate, have it complete within them.”

I suppose this goes along somewhat with Paul’s reported statement about God in Acts 17, that we are all God’s offspring and in him we live and move and have our being. The logical problem with Zen descriptions of the One Thing is bolded above. Zen masters are forever talking about this entity that is beyond all thought, and then describing it. If it is beyond all thought, it is completely ineffable, and no one would ever even be able to remember that they experienced it.  Descriptions of or pronouncements about it would be impossible.  If you ever encountered it you would not know it, or know that it existed.  It’s a logical problem that I’ve never heard resolved.  At least with Jesus you have something you can sink your teeth into (heh, heh).

 
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23 January 2014 20:08
 

True Bruce, and that’s the contention of some as to what the historical Jesus narratives purpose is.

 
 
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25 January 2014 01:25
 
EN - 23 January 2014 03:06 PM

The logical problem with Zen descriptions of the One Thing is bolded above. Zen masters are forever talking about this entity that is beyond all thought, and then describing it. If it is beyond all thought, it is completely ineffable, and no one would ever even be able to remember that they experienced it.  Descriptions of or pronouncements about it would be impossible.  If you ever encountered it you would not know it, or know that it existed.  It’s a logical problem that I’ve never heard resolved.

Yep, even the ancient Chinese made this argument and no Tao/Zen master that I know of has addressed it.  How is “nothing” defined?  How is “follow your nature” defined?  How is “is” defined?  We tried earlier on the Sam Harris forum:

http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/10541/

 
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25 January 2014 03:01
 
Skipshot - 25 January 2014 12:25 AM
EN - 23 January 2014 03:06 PM

The logical problem with Zen descriptions of the One Thing is bolded above. Zen masters are forever talking about this entity that is beyond all thought, and then describing it. If it is beyond all thought, it is completely ineffable, and no one would ever even be able to remember that they experienced it.  Descriptions of or pronouncements about it would be impossible.  If you ever encountered it you would not know it, or know that it existed.  It’s a logical problem that I’ve never heard resolved.

Yep, even the ancient Chinese made this argument and no Tao/Zen master that I know of has addressed it.  How is “nothing” defined?  How is “follow your nature” defined?  How is “is” defined?  We tried earlier on the Sam Harris forum:

http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewthread/10541/

Teenage Zen

Where
    are
      you
        going? 
Out.

What
    are
      you
        going
              to do?
Nothing.

 
EN
 
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25 January 2014 11:43
 

OMG, thanks Skipshot.  I had forgotten about this ancient dialogue from the SH forum.  I’m going to post one between Salt Creek and Sander - a classic.

Salt Creek - 24 September 2008 05:16 AM
Sander - 23 September 2008 10:21 PM

Please, do tell, what, by god’s balls, is ‘the Tao’?

Imagine you have parked your car illegally and it has been impounded by the authorities.

The Tao is what is left alongside the curb after the Tao Truck has taken your vehicle away.

 
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25 January 2014 17:34
 
EN - 23 January 2014 03:06 PM
unsmoked - 23 January 2014 02:49 PM

A ZEN DESCRIPTION OF GOD

“Ever since antiquity, with excellence beyond measure, the saints and sages have experienced this Great Cause alone, as if planting great potential and capacity.  By the power of their vows of compassion, they have brought forth direct indications of the One Thing that is most profound and most recondite, the common essence of all the myriad forms of being.

“Without setting up stages, they abruptly transcend to realize this essence alone.  Since before the time when nothing existed, this essence has been ever still and unmoved, determining the basis of all conscious beings.  It permeates all times and is beyond all thought.  It is beyond holy and ordinary and transcends all knowledge and views.  It has never fluctuated or wavered:  it is there, pure and naked and full of life.  All beings, both animate and inanimate, have it complete within them.”

The logical problem with Zen descriptions of the One Thing is . . .


Against his better judgement, Xiatang takes another run at it:

“‘Budda’ is a temporary name for what cannot be seen when you look, what cannot be heard when you listen, whose place of origin and passing away cannot be found when you search.

“It covers form and sound, pervades sky and earth, penetrates above and below.  There is no second view, no second person, no second thought.  It is everywhere, in everything, not something external.

“This is why the single source of all awareness is called ‘Buddha.’”  (end quote)

Nothing external?

(Xiatang quoted from the book, ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)

 
 
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25 January 2014 20:57
 
unsmoked - 25 January 2014 04:34 PM


Against his better judgement, Xiatang takes another run at it:

“‘Budda’ is a temporary name for what cannot be seen when you look, what cannot be heard when you listen, whose place of origin and passing away cannot be found when you search.

“It covers form and sound, pervades sky and earth, penetrates above and below.  There is no second view, no second person, no second thought.  It is everywhere, in everything, not something external.

“This is why the single source of all awareness is called ‘Buddha.’”  (end quote)

Nothing external?

(Xiatang quoted from the book, ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)

This is incoherent.  At least the Christian concept of God is one that can be experienced, and you know you’ve experienced it (whatever others may think).  WIth Buddha you don’t even experience it, so how do you know it’s there?  The subjective experience is the only thing that keeps me in the Christian faith.  If it was just “it’s out there but you can’t experience it” it would be futile to seek it.  This concept that you have written about boils down to “seek and you will not find.”

 
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27 January 2014 01:09
 

Words are the source of misunderstandings…

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

 
 
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27 January 2014 15:32
 
EN - 25 January 2014 07:57 PM

  WIth Buddha you don’t even experience it, so how do you know it’s there?  The subjective experience is the only thing that keeps me in the Christian faith.  If it was just “it’s out there but you can’t experience it” it would be futile to seek it.  This concept that you have written about boils down to “seek and you will not find.”

Foyan comments:

“Zen enlightenment is as if you have been away from home for many years, when you suddenly see your father in town.  You know him right away, without a doubt.  There is no need to ask anyone else whether he is your father or not.”  -  (end quote)

Do you think that your subjective experience is exclusively a Christian phenomenon? 

(Foyan quoted from the book, ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ - translated and edited by Thomas Cleary)

 
 
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27 January 2014 17:58
 
unsmoked - 27 January 2014 02:32 PM

Do you think that your subjective experience is exclusively a Christian phenomenon?

No, I think it happens across the human religious/non-religious spectrum.

 
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06 February 2014 19:23
 

But why does this happen? Is it Gods way of telling us to believe, or to believe as a Christian, or to convert to the one true faith?

This sounds like the universalist position. God is all things to all people and will give them a revelatory experience if they are open to it.

To me this doesn’t bode well for the monotheistic God of Abraham.

 
 
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07 February 2014 04:21
 
unsmoked - 23 January 2014 02:49 PM

A ZEN DESCRIPTION OF GOD

“Ever since antiquity, with excellence beyond measure, the saints and sages have experienced this Great Cause alone, as if planting great potential and capacity.  By the power of their vows of compassion, they have brought forth direct indications of the One Thing that is most profound and most recondite, the common essence of all the myriad forms of being.

“Without setting up stages, they abruptly transcend to realize this essence alone.  Since before the time when nothing existed, this essence has been ever still and unmoved, determining the basis of all conscious beings.  It permeates all times and is beyond all thought.  It is beyond holy and ordinary and transcends all knowledge and views.  It has never fluctuated or wavered:  it is there, pure and naked and full of life.  All beings, both animate and inanimate, have it complete within them.”

(quoted from the book - ‘ZEN LETTERS - Teachings of Yuanwu’ - translated by J.C. Cleary and Thomas Cleary)


Love this video when thinking about impermanence. What element is continuous behind all of this?

 
 
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07 February 2014 10:00
 
Epaminondas - 06 February 2014 06:23 PM

But why does this happen? Is it Gods way of telling us to believe, or to believe as a Christian, or to convert to the one true faith?

This sounds like the universalist position. God is all things to all people and will give them a revelatory experience if they are open to it.

To me this doesn’t bode well for the monotheistic God of Abraham.

Why?  There’s still only one God.  People see him through the lens of their own cultural experience, so he is described differently by different cultures.  I still think Jesus was the best representation of him, however.  But that’s just me.

 
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07 February 2014 10:58
 

For me, if the true representation of God is the monotheistic God of Abraham, he could not also be represented as a Hindu God, or a Pantheistic God, or a universalist deist God.

If something is all things it is really nothing right? Or I guess one can believe the only ‘thing’ that can be all things and the one thing would be a concept of God.

 
 
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16 March 2014 02:05
 

The Zen notion agrees well with my description of “God” as equivalent to “reality”. I’m sure I was influenced by the Zen notion as much as by the Abrahamic notion as translated to “I am that am”. This also seems to me to be equivalent to the Hindu concept of “God without predicates”, which is my motivation for talking about predicates (and heuristics,  transformation, representation, explanation, etc.) a lot.

Being effective at life is largely a matter of having the best available predicates, and acting according to them. Taking that step into the unknown and untested that is the rejection of predicates as reality is therefore frightening. That which is explained actually is comforting, and rightfully so, to the extent that the explanations agree with reality.

 
 
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